The future of our survey on the rise in teleworking energy bills

*08.11.2022 we have republished this survey to enable a comparison, please participate!*

*Update 07.11.2022 we add a list of all available state aid in Luxembourg.*

*23.10.2022 the teleworking costs court case has been unsuccessful.*

It’s the perfect storm of costs: increased consumption of utilities and higher bills due to teleworking meets increased energy costs due to the political situation and even higher bills. We intend to show the compounded effects of these two hits by comparing the snapshot we took at the end of 2021 with a new pic from now: we will republish our survey and ask you again to contribute.

To put this into context, even the Commission is reducing its energy costs, and especially those linked to gas, because of the abnormal price increases seen in recent months: look at the planned and ongoing closures of buildings and the reducing of temperatures in those buildings still occupied.

Our original survey looked at the rise in all bills related to working from home. Remember that staff provided and continue to provide many of the elements necessary to ensure business continuity and do so free of charge:

  • private mobile phone/landline (remember you can still request a token: email IT)
  • domestic internet connection
  • space within the private home (particularly costly in Luxembourg [1]): some colleagues even moved home (we collected 8 examples) in order to accommodate long-term 100% teleworking
  • table/desk
  • utilities: e.g. electricity, water, gas

This, in spite of the lump sum mentioned in the Working Time and Hybrid Working decision (WTHW, (Article 13(4), March 2022) or the rights outlined in the Staff Regulations:

‘An official shall be entitled, as provided in Annex VII, to reimbursement of expenses incurred by him … in the course of or in connection with the performance of his duties.’ (Staff Regulations, Article 71)

As was easy to anticipate, the results of the survey revealed a very big increase in home utilities consumption after the introduction of generalised telework in March 2020. This was unavoidable when staff spend all day at home instead of in the office. Indeed, among the 1204 respondents 97.9% confirmed that their utilities consumption had increased and so too their bills linked to energy, e.g. electricity, gas and heating. The exact results and answers are shown below.

Results from the 1193 colleagues who participated

Question 1 Has your energy consumption increased since you started teleworking? (for most of us this was 16.03.2020)

Question 2 Have your utility bills increased?

Question 3 Which of the following have increased? (Multiple choice question)

Among the 166 colleagues who mentioned answer ‘other’ 157 people specified their answers as follows.

* ‘Other’ includes increase of : car fuel; meals; cleaning; central heating (wooden pellets) and air-conditioning; buying furniture; medical costs (i.e. due to backache); mobile phone; childcare; house insurance.

Question 4 How much did the monthly total bill (utilities and energy together) increase?

On the basis of the figures above it was possible to calculate an estimative average which is of EUR 111.14 per month per person.

Conclusions

All of those who worked from home and responded to our survey reported that the increase in energy consumption affected them (97.92%) resulting in corresponding increase in their utility bills (97.09%) due to telework. (Number of answer ‘no’ – energy consumption and utility bills did not increase, is lower than standard statistical error 3%.)

The biggest increases were observed for electricity bills (94.85% of respondents), gas bills (71.51% of respondents) and internet costs (40.03% of respondents).

It must be highlighted that for some of our colleagues (8 people contacted us with their stories) generalised 100% telework resulted in the necessity of changing the apartment they rented to a more expensive one. The increase of those costs (rental) is the biggest one and the heaviest to bear.

Considering the number of employees in the European Commission as 32.169 people (source: 2022 Key figures) then the sum that the European Commission has shifted onto its staff is over EUR 3 500 000 every month since March 2020.

Finally yet importantly, the increase of the utilities consumption recorded by those working from home is resulting not only with increase of their bills but also with increase of the CO2 emission of their households: homeworking may be less green than the EU thinks! This value has not been the subject of our survey and would be very hard to estimate. Yet, the green(washing) arguments of this way of working should be properly measured and taken into account while analysing non-financial costs of the compulsory telework especially in the light of the European Commission involvement in the reduction of CO2 emissions and the Green Deal (2019-2024: Europe to be climate neutral by 2050).

What did we do, backed by your input?

What will we do now?

  • ask for Commission monthly consumption figures for utilities during the Covid teleworking period (16.03.2020-24.03.2022[2]) and the same figures recorded in the pre-Covid months, as a reference
  • relaunch our survey (soon!) to compare the results with those of 2021 (here is the new survey)
  • request a formal social dialogue with the administration to address this issue.

As always, we would love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or leave a comment below.

If you appreciate our work, please consider becoming a member of Generation 2004.

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[1] ‘The average rent paid in 2021 is around 27% higher for staff working in Luxembourg than in Brussels. It should be remembered that these are six-year average values, not just the observed rent for the current year.’ (Eurostat Staff Housing Survey, 2021). In March 2022 there were 12 actions proposed to increase the attractiveness of Luxembourg as a place of employment. Generation 2004 advocates for a housing allowance to address this (particularly for staff at the lower end of the salary scales). See section ‘Attractiveness of Luxembourg/cost of living’ in our external resources.

[2] Why these dates? 100% teleworking started 16.03.2020 and the working time and hybrid working (WTHW) decision states that WFH/teleworking is (now) voluntary (Article 9(3)). But please note that (ostensibly) we always had the possibility to work from the office.  Colleagues whose job could be done remotely but who were unable or unwilling to work from home were invited to return to the office even mid-pandemic.

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